Blinded by Fascia
When most bodyworkers think of the modality, Structural Integration (SI), their first thought is fascia. Many forms of Structural Integration have built their approaches off its existence, including the OG, Rolfing®. When Ida Rolf, the creator of Rolfing®, was originally creating the modality, she had quite the revolutionary thought at the time: fascia was a tissue that both could and should be worked. Her understanding and focus on fascia ended up being a catalyst for the creation of SI and many of its unique facets. In these early years, SI developed as a way to manually work and effect this fascial tissue. It helped us understand that we’re wrapped in continuous tissue rather than people being a collection of individual muscles that weren’t necessarily connected. Needless to say, Fascia was instrumental to SI back in the days of Ida Rolf, but that’s not the point of this post.
The Morales Method® Academy of Structural Integration is here to challenge this idea that fascia is essential to SI today. What’s beautiful about Structural Integration is that it’s such an interesting mixture of art and science. We at the Morales Method® truly don’t believe SI can be done well without embracing both viewpoints. Since the 1940s and 1950s, the ‘art’ side of this equation hasn’t changed much, but science has learned quite a bit about human anatomy in the last 70-80 years since Ida Rolf was constructing the foundations of Structural Integration. One especially important thing we have learned about fascia in particular is that it has the tensile strength of soft steel. In the image below we see a clip from a study done in 2008 by Chas. Murray Gratz titled: Tensile Strength and Elasticity Tests on Human Fascia Lata.
As you can see above, we learn in this study that fascia is too strong for us to manipulate passively with our hands. In 2017, this research was followed by a study from Wilhelm, et al., 2017 that demonstrates that when the IT Band/Tensor Fascia Latae Complex is stretched, significant lengthening occurs at the TFL rather than the distal end of the IT Band. When we consider this, it brings into question this heavy focus on Fascia. While we are spending all this time attempting to manipulate a very specific tissue that almost has the tensile strength of steel, weight for weight, what else are we missing that we could have more of a chance of actually affecting?
When we teach Directional Resistance in the Morales Method®, we talk of a concept called End Range. When sinking into the tissue we define End Range as the point at which you can no longer easily sink into the tissue and you can feel a firm push back from the client’s tissue. End Range is not based on any particular part of the tissue (ie, superficial or deep fascia, specific muscles, etc) rather it is based on a palpatory sensation. Because of this, when we work the tissue in the Morales Method®, there is not a specific focus on fascia. We acknowledge that End Range and the tension that led us there, could be related to skin, muscle, fascia, blood, nerve, adipose tissue, and all the other structures that are underneath our hands when we work.
When we take fascia off the pedestal and throw it into the mix of all those structures listed above, it actually frees us up in a lot of ways. We’re no longer tied to trying to parse out and organize this incredibly complex and interwoven fascial system. We can instead understand that it is only one piece of a much larger and much more complex system that is the human body (Check out our previous post on the Deep Front Line). At the Morales Method®, this is where the ‘art’ factor is embraced. Science is helpful, but sometimes trying to make sense of both bodywork and the human body can limit us from exploring the unexplainable things or the things that might not make sense. Some of my best work has honestly come from those moments where I’ve realized what I am doing makes no sense on paper, but I got there by ignoring that, listening to ALL of the client's tissue, and exploring/working with gentle curiosity.
I know that our views on fascia at the Morales Method® are unique for the world of Structural Integration, but I think it is important that we question the framework that is handed down to us. This is how progress and growth happen. I'm forever grateful for the work that Ida did for us SI practitioners all those years ago. Without her, the Morales Method® would not exist today and I would not be the bodyworker or person I am. Fitting to have a moment to honor the Mother of Structural Integration on Mother’s Day.
P.S.- If you are curious to learn more about the Morales Method® approach to SI check out the classes below and also stay tuned for our Level 2- MMASI 10-Series course, coming soon!
Structural Integration- Theory & Gait Assessment